What warrants our claims? A methodological evaluation of argument structure

Published: 15 February 2022

Authors: Mikko Ketokivi and Saku Mantere

Publication: Journal of Operations Management, Volume 67, Issue 6, September 2021, Pages 755 – 776.


The process of justifying a generalized theoretical conclusion from a specific empirical analysis continues to elude us. In this article, we suggest that this stems from an incomplete understanding and specification of how arguments are structured. Most importantly, in addition to empirical data, a generalized conclusion hinges on the application of various rules and principles of reasoning that British philosopher Stephen Toulmin labeled warrants. In this article, we apply Toulmin's model of argument structure to empirical management research by examining in particular the roles of four types of warrants: theoretical, inferential, procedural, and contextual. Based on our analysis, we suggest that making warrants and their backings explicit paves the way toward a more comprehensive understanding of how arguments are structured and how claims are justified. Importantly, an examination of warrants reveals that the choices researchers make are not limited to matters such as choosing the research topic or a particular research design, but they also extend to how we produce our claims. If we wish to understand argument structure, we must understand these choices.

Desautels 22

In recognition of research excellence as it relates to publications in top-tier management journals, our Faculty has compiled a list of high quality, peer-reviewed management journals, which is referred to as the Desautels 22.

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